Fears of #AI Part 2 – Accidental Intelligence

Just as we were recovering from the spat between Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, as discussed in last week’s post on Fears of AI, new events in the world are leading to more fears of perils due to Artificial Intelligence.

Fear of AI

Facebook stopped an experiment where it had created two AI Bots to negotiate with each other. The initial idea was for the bots to negotiate with each other, based on bartering. Thus ultimately hitting the common ground for both and close the deal. Instead, this happened –

(Original Transcript of negotiation between the bots)

Bob: i can i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

Bob: you i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Alice: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me to me to me

Bob: i i can i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me to me to me

Bob: i . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

Bob: you i i i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have 0 to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

Bob: you i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

What is odd in the discussion above is the language that is being used by the two bots to negotiate. Clearly, it’s not English but something scripted in English. What is clear is that the bots have developed a language only they can understand. They are interacting and responding the same way. This is the classic GIGO (Garbage In Garbage Out) situation. However, Facebook quickly shut the experiment. The whole world has gone berserk with this announcement. Facebook has embraced the greatest fears of AI. Some go to the extent to say this is what has happened in public domain. What has happened in private, no one knows?

There is more noise now that scientists may not know all the solutions, and to be more specific all the problems. There are doomsday scenarios being written by multiple people, but here is a good list that tells all –









More details here – The Clever.

Here is the video of the week –

6 ways to improve listening

In a world filled with cacophony and sounds of multiple types, listening is becoming more and more sparse. The advent of technology and increasing domination of technology gadgets in our daily lives, conversations have fast approached their untimely death. Within homes, people are interacting less with each other and spending more time watching TV or reading social media posts on their personal mobile phones or tablets. This is truly a connected world with disconnected people.


An obvious casualty of this limited one to one interactions is the ability to listen or in other words, listening skills. Lack of listening skills is leading to more and more gaps and distances. These distances are filled with confusion and chaos. We are building a sparsely connected world where opinions and judgments are made with partial listening – so partial information. Compound with the inherent nature of human beings to do stereotyping, we are leading to more angst and more hatred in the society.

The growing number of road rage cases are just one indication of growing angst in the society and how the sense of community if getting lost.

Three separate research articles spanning over 60 years suggest listening has not evolved as much as it should. In the first article dated 1957, the research points to the need for active listening and how it is causing loss of the high amount of business dollars.

Read more about it here.

The second article demonstrates the same problem still persists. There is still significant productivity loss due to lack of active listening.

Read more about it here.

The third article talks about the things that great listeners do and emphasizes the lacks of active listeners.

Read more about it here.

60 years have gone by emphasizing the importance of this significant skill and lack of its adoption in the world, in general. The significant loss underscores the need – especially in the context of being better business owners, managers, and better human beings.

So what can one do to improve their listening skills?

Julian Treasure has spent a significant amount of his life researching on the skill of listening. He has spent years researching the subject and has identified 5 ways on how we can improve our listening. Here are his 5 popular ways –

  1. 3 MINUTES OF SILENCE – Julian advocates practicing 3 minutes of silence every day.  With this, he says that people can be better at understanding the sounds in the environment they are operating. This helps to become an active practitioner of the art of listening and improves cognitive skills significantly.
  2. Next, he suggests understanding the MIXER. This is basically a habit of trying to identifying the different sounds in a noisy place.
  3. He further encourages people to SAVOUR the sounds in their surroundings and enjoying those sounds while relating to something familiar.
  4. Then one needs to determine the different types of LISTENING POSITIONS that are possible for them to actively participate in a conversation through listening. Following are the filters that he suggests to apply in the sounds –
    • Active Vs. Passive
    • Reductive Vs. Expansive
    • Empathetic Vs. Critical
  5. Finally, he relies on the RASA, meaning juice or essence in Sanskrit. This is expanded as below –
    • RECEIVE – Pay attention others
    • APPRECIATE – via little sounds like mm, hmmm
    • ASK

With these Julian concludes that one can become a much more active listener and be effective in their realm of activity.

You can watch his Ted Video on ‘Listening of Sounds’ here.

The 6th way is to breathe in a rhythm, in tandem with the sound to focus on what is being said. 

It is important for us with the cacophony around us to become active listeners. Let’s start practicing these today itself.

You can listen to the related podcast at Soundcloud.

July #AI Digest – #Gains, #Clothing, #Apollo and #AndrewNg

Things move at a fast pace and fast pace requires fast steps. Fast steps require more energy and the more you conserve is more you have – unless you have boosters to provide the extra energy. The system in equilibrium has the unique ability to stay in that state for a long time or at least till there is any disruption leading to entropic state and consequently moves to another state of equilibrium.

This is how the physical states work everywhere. This is how growth happens. This is how Momentum Moments are built.

The current world is undergoing a similar entropic state with multiple disruptions coming. Consequently, a new equilibrium state will come with its own tenure till something else disrupts it for good.

A recent report by PwC has predicted that Global GDP will grow by up to $16 Trillion through AI with productivity gains and consumption patterns shift. In numbers that is –


And here is how PwC claims it.

PwC Analysis

Highlights from above chart:

  1. Labour productivity improvements that are assisting the work force to be more productive through the adoption of AI tools are going to give 55% of overall gains.
  2. Product innovation increases and gains traction with faster throughput for products and services.
  3. Consequently, there would be increased consumption and also AI would help in reducing the amount of consumption side wastage. Thereby, giving 58% of GDP gains by 2030.

In addition, SalesForce predicts that there would 800,000 new jobs and $1.1 Trillion in revenue growth by 2021 through AI.

On the other side, data Mining of 100 Million Instagram Photos revealed Global Clothing patterns. What is also means –

  • Now you can find out what clothing trends are emerging
  • That you can introduce new styles by adopting the fashion trends from anywhere in the world
  • The old order of what fits right and what fits not is quickly blurring and shadow lines are disappearing
  • Your data once published is easy commodity for anybody to use
  • Your lives so private become horribly social without your knowing
  • You may be inspiring somebody who may have no means to extend gratitude

Check out more about the study here.


Our friends with Oriental Lineage have a lot to share in the last few days.

The father of Deep Learning, Andrew Ng,  is making significant strides after his stint got over at Baidu. Perhaps the corporate culture was suffocating the entrepreneur in him. He has recently announced, yet another initiative for Deep Learning, this time named DeepLearning.ai. Below is the link, the scientist does have an appeal to some marketing too. Check out the capital letters in the name below.


And lastly, Andre Ng’s former employer Baidu has launched Apollo – what it is calling the Android of Self Driven Cars. Its good to hear such open systems based announcements from companies that operate in geographies where Google, Facebook, Amazon and many more companies – known for bringing openness to the forefront – are not allowed to operate. So, good luck to them and their strides. And of course, they are not doing it alone, but in partnership with Microsoft – another organisation that took years to learn about the openness of systems.

Learn more here.

Our salute to Andrew Ng for relentlessly pushing the limits of AI. Here is a famous video from him. Do watch it!

Enjoy reading… Happy rest of the week!

The Millennial Swimmer’s Body

Yami Gautam is a beautiful actress. She is fair, has sharp features and a lovely face. She has done some good cinema too with movies like Vicky Donor, Badlapur, Kaabil etc. She is also the face of Fair & Lovely Beauty Cream campaign.

Many girls see her advertisement for Fair & Lovely and buy the cream to be like Yami.

Similarly, IITs are holy grail for Engineering in India. Every year hundreds and thousands of aspirants appear in the examination to become successful. A select few hundreds make to the top institutes.

Both the above are examples of Swimmer’ Body Illusion as discovered by Nasser Taleb. Advertising of beauty products is done with people who are already good looking. Take example of Yami. She is made to look lesser pretty for the advertisement and with application of beauty product she looks to her normal self again. People, esp young girls, watching the advertisement believe that they can look like her and buy the product.

IITs, on the other hand, suffer acute shortage of good faculty at the institutes. This means that there will be plenty of courses that would be taught by mediocre or not that great professors. But still, students graduating from IITs are assumed to be the best Engineers in the country. This is because the selection through the tough and rigorous entrance examination ensures that only the best engineering minds make it to the institute. Consequently, the general engineer graduating from IIT is better engineer than others.

Susan Rapp, the daughter of Army Colonel Edward G. Rapp, competes in a swimming event at the 1984 Summer Olympics.

Many a times people look at others and start believing that they are better or equal to the ‘other’ and can beat them in what they are good that. In high octane, high competition societies like India, this is very visible. Reason- because there is so much to compare.

When children – marks are compared, when teenage – latest gadgetry in hand is compared, when adults – accumulation of wealth and assets is compared.

Consequently, there is a lot of herd movement to things. The mass makes things competitive and things go into scarcity very soon.

During the 1970s, people wanted to become an Engineer and take a government job. Why? Because there were a lot of Government enterprises that were being opened and everyone wanted a safe future.

During the late 90s and early 2000s, people wanted to get into Information Technology as invariably it was the path to the US.

Since 2015, we see a lot of startups coming up. Mushrooming and growing. Trying to change the world.

What happened in 1970s? We have engineering companies with not so great engineering talent as people soon realized that they had different skills.

What happened in 1990s? We had many engineers who may have done something else (and may be more meaningful) got into IT and are straddled in their paths not knowing where to go?

What is happening today? We have a lot of people building startups because others are doing it not knowing whether they have appetite for startups or not. Soon, we would have more debris at the bottom of the ocean.


The larger startups that are going to win and thrive are the ones that are attracting talent with strong reach out.Consequently, they are building an atmosphere of competitiveness internally. People push each other to grow and grow the company along – good strategy for any company on a high velocity path. Retaining that talent is the key challenge now!

It is crucial that one realizes their own limitations and then work towards the appropriate Swimmer’s Body Dilemma. Millennials need to understand this more to know as their lives are already on the swim lane to make the fastest lap.

Brilliantly new idea – No one has thought

I wish it was true to have a ‘Brilliantly New Idea’ that no one has thought. I was asked recently whether one needs a ‘brilliantly new idea’ to start a successful business. Tough question to answer. This is for 2 reasons – novelty is scarce, brilliance is contextual.


I clearly remember when I was starting my own sports and fitness startup, I and my partner thought that we had a brilliant idea that no one else had thought about.

Within 2 months of starting, we realized that there were 3 other serious players in the market who were doing the same thing as ours. Did that mean our idea was not brilliant? If we speak to people who were not familiar with the competition, it was brilliant. However, for customers of the customers, it was a routine thing.


  • iPod, the revolutionary product that led to iPhone was not the first music player in the world.
  • Google was not the first search engine in the world
  • Reliance Jio was not the first Mobile operator in India
  • McDonald’s was not the first (and not the best) burger maker in the world
  • Arvind Mills was not the first automatic textile manufacturer in the world
  • And the list goes on…

So does the problem really lies with brilliance?

Same idea may be brilliant for some and mundane for others and vice versa.

Elon Musk, the idea and brilliance powerhouse of the world, is thinking about solving world’s transportation problems with EVs and the Boring Company; and also of the Universe with SpaceX.

For ISRO engineers, the problem that SpaceX is trying to solve is everyday job. Does that mean Elon Musk is not brilliant?

Similarly, people who embraced digital payments early were merely early adopters. When digitization via demonetization happened in India, the man on the street became a customer of the digital payments. Does it mean that early adopters are more brilliant than the man on the street?

The answer to both is No.

Further, when Flipkart started in India, it was not a brilliant idea. India already had IndiaPlaza.com. World already had Amazon.com. Flipkart copied over Amazon.com.

Amazon.com was (and is) brilliant in identifying the opportunity of product sales using the internet.

Now if Flipkart starts its operations in US, would it be a brilliant idea there? Certainly not. Unless, Flipkart addresses some of the gaps in the offering of Amazon.com in the US. Obviously it requires a lot of research and identifying the right gaps. Then making the right solutions to fill those gaps and then communicating to the customers about this value differentiated offering.

So brilliance has to sit in the context right. Any idea has to be brilliant if it is serving a need contextually.

The question then arises of one needs to do something successfully and at scale – whether a new project that is done for commercial purposes or to start a new business.

The two important things that one needs to look at then are below –

  • Scale of problem – One needs to spend time to identify the problem. Then the research should be to understand the ‘scale of the problem’. The bigger the scale of the problem that one is trying to solve. The greater is going to be the impact of the solution. The bigger the impact of the solution, the more the opportunities of making money/ reaping benefits.


  • Comprehensive research – This is one of the most ignored part by most young managers and entrepreneurs. Research may help you to find answers to some of the questions that you may have like below –
    • What is the current solution for the problem?
    • How many players are there?
    • Are there any gaps in the offering?
    • Can a marriage of technology with the field of interest make any impact?
    • Do I or my team have the skills to solve this problem?

A comprehensive approach to a given problem shall help to solve the most impending problems.

So instead of ‘Brilliantly New Idea’, one must focus on ‘Scale of the problem’.

Naming your Business? Here are 6 tips

I was recently asked by someone to suggest a name for their startup. This is not the first time that someone has approached me for this. I also often (not so often these days) see posts on social media from friends, families and acquaintances seeking name suggestions for their businesses.


Names are an important anatomical entity for anything. A name is an identity. It is the first conversational point – between people irrespective of whether they are customers, or employees or friends or anyone else.

Household names like Google, Uber, Starbucks, Facebook, Rin, Coke, TATA etc that have become part of everyday language and are an essential part of our lives. Of course, they have been pushed hard by some smart marketing but having a marketable name is the first step in the right direction.

On the other hand, there are business names that are regrettable to say the least as they shift focus from purpose to the quirky nature of these names. A simple Google search will give you some very interesting results:

  1. Rotten Wi-fi
  2. Bewakoof (In Hindi it means stupid) – No wonder this startup was bought by the now struggling e-commerce company Snapdeal.com.
  3. Fu King Chinese Restaurant
  4. Fat Ho Burgers (Translated to Get Fat Burgers)
  5. If you drive around your city in India, you may come across many such names B.Tech Chat Wala (An engineer selling snacks), Shoe Hospital (for a roadside cobbler), WhatsApp Snacks,  Please don’t say Theek-thaak (translated to Please dont say OK) and there are more

Shakespeare may disagree and roses may smell the same with another name but in business, telling name of the business is a defining moment for anybody. With the growing startup culture in countries like India, name could be a make or break for any further discussion with customers, investors, employees and vendors.

So what goes in a name? Below are some of the tips to consider while naming your business.

  1. Keep the name short and crisp – Distractions in the modern world have had a serious casualty in the attention span of people. People are usually mutli-tasking and rarely focused on what they have in front of them. To catch attention of such a busy mind, one needs to have a short and crisp name. Long and detailed names are most likely to go unregistered and unnoticed by the audience. Companies like Amazon, Google, Jio, Uber, Tinder etc understood this and kept the brand names short and crisp.
  2. Name should be relevant to business purpose – I get excited by companies that have their name telling me their story. Take example of some companies like
    • Netflix – One can easily make out that it is an internet business to watch your next movie flick
    • EBW (Express Bike Wash) – As simple and direct it can get. This company tells you that it is in the business of bike wash and one can expect quick response given that it is an ‘Express’.
    • ToysRus – The famous toy store chain is every kids delight. The name tells it all.
    • WebMd.com – It is the online doctor with an MD. You can find information of anything even remotely related to medicine here.
    • MapsofIndia – This tells that the visitor to this site can expect the maps from all over India here.
    • Now consider Government initiatives like Digital India, Skill India to name a few. These names clearly mark the purpose of the existence of these businesses and missions. A layman can understand what these businesses stand for.
    • Future Group, one of the largest retail groups in India, have adopted this approach in all its brands. They run stores general stores chain by the name of Big Bazaar, Electronics chain by the name of eZone, HomeTown for home furnishing and furniture – to name a few.
  3. Verb phrases in nature – Some businesses take the approach of naming themselves based on the verbs or actions that they expect their customers to do when they hear about them. Lets take an example of Flipkart. The company in clear intent tells its customers to flip their physical shopping cart and buy online from them.
  4. Names should be simple – I came across a couple of media agencies – Sokrati and Vezury. Frankly, it is very difficult for me personally to keep a clear recall of these brands and their purpose. Simply because they are just too lacking in purpose and unclear to common man that they are hard to remember.
  5. Keep them professional – There is a company by the name Web Chutney. Chutney is Hindi word for paste. In my days at a leading auto manufacturer in India, I used to interact with their staff and found them very professional and experts in their fields. However, every time I read their cards, I used to smirk reading at the name of the company. While it could be a good branding strategy to build a brand recall with such names but there are other ways to build professional business with professional names.
  6. Name for the right audience – If you are targeting global audience, the brand name needs to be global and non vernacular in nature. If your product or services are such that they are targeted to only a particular segment or customer type irrespective of geography then the name should be more personal to that group. For example, Infosys is a global name as they see the world as their market. However, Haldirams, the leading Indian snack company, sees only Indians and Indian diaspora as their target audience so they have a very localized name. Many a times translation from one language to another lead to disastrous meanings for well intended words and phrases. Here are some examples of straight translations that led to marketing discomfort for some of the big brands.

Names for business just as children last a lifetime. These names are registered and marketed entities and have lot of bearing in the marketplace. When you name your business, make sure that it is not something that you regret sooner or later. All the best with your journey to pursue your next big dream.

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Image Courtesy: https://creativemarket.com